Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat Preview
The Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors are riding significant double-digit victories over playoff-bound Western Conference opponents into this Eastern Conference clash. The Heat took down the Nuggets, and the Raptors defeated the Lakers on Sunday. With a win here, the Raptors could put a firm grip on the #2 seed as they currently outpace the Celtics by 4.5 games.
The Heat, meanwhile, are just two games behind the Celtics for the #3 seed. Seeding at the top of the East is very important as all of these teams would love to avoid a potential second-round draw with the dominant Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors had racked up four straight wins before the season was postponed, so their victory over the Lakers, the #1 seed in the West, marks their fifth win in a row. Kyle Lowry was their best player against LA as the veteran point guard impressed with 33 points, six assists, and a career-high 14 rebounds.
The Raptors will be hoping to get more out of their bench in this game as their reserve players combined for just 15 points the last time out. For the Heat, it took a balanced effort to beat the Nuggets – six different players had double-digit points. This matchup between Eastern Conference heavyweights should produce plenty of intense action.
Time: 1:30 PM ET
Arena: HP Field House, Orlando, FL
Channel: SN, FSSUN
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Raptors: Dewan Hernandez (O), Patrick McCaw (DTD), Oshae Brissett (DTD)
Heat KZ Okpala (DTD), Goran Dragic (P), Bam Adebayo (P)
Raptors Starting 5
As I mentioned in the intro, Kyle Lowry dominated against the Lakers as he went for 33 points, six assists, and a career-high 14 rebounds. Lowry will be matched up against Kendrick Nunn, a rookie guard who may struggle to contend with Lowry’s doggedness on defense. In addition to Lowry’s awesome night against the Lakers, the Raptors got great production out of third-year forward OG Anunoby – he had 23 points, including 3-3 from 3-point range, and played some excellent defense on LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The forward tandem of Anunoby and Siakam might be the league’s best defensively as they offer an elite blend of size and speed, physicality, and athleticism. Siakam’s shot was off in the Lakers game as he only had 15 points on 5-17 from the field, but he contributed in other ways as he finished with nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks. Against the Heat, I would expect Anunoby to start on Jimmy Butler with Siakam guarding Crowder as he will be freed up to play more of the roaming, free safety role.
Moving forward, the Raptors will need to get more production out of their pair of centers as Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka combined for just 12 points and 11 rebounds. It would not be a surprise to see Ibaka get his fair share of starts as the season goes on, but Gasol was the better defensive option against the Lakers. After playing the Lakers, a team with tons of interior physicality, the Raptors’ big men will be in for another difficult matchup as Bam Adebayo is the stalwart of a stout frontcourt. Rounding out the starting five is Fred VanVleet, a fourth-year combo guard who is averaging career-highs across the board with 17.5 points, 6.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals. He’ll be tasked with guarding the Heat’s Duncan Robinson, who is a lights-out 3-point shooter. This starting five is one of the best defensive groups in the NBA, but they may need to pick up their scoring pace if the Heat can keep their hot shooting going.
Heat Starting 5
Against the Nuggets, Miami’s two best players, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo came through as they tied for the team lead in points with 22. Adebayo also contributed with nine rebounds and six assists. He’s one of the front-runners in what is a loaded race for the Most Improved Player award – the Heat big man is averaging career-highs across the board as a first-time, full-time starter. He’s averaging 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. His passing has particularly been surprising as he’s often operated as an offensive hub for the new-look Heat that often don’t have a traditional point guard on the floor. Jimmy Butler has had a big passing season as well – he had a team-high seven assists against the Nuggets and is averaging 6.1 assists per game. He’s also a tenacious rebounder and defensive player, as his four rebounds and three steals against Denver suggest. Adebayo and Butler are one of the NBA’s best tandems this season as they both rank top-30 in PER, and are particularly adept on the defensive end where they both rank top-30 as well.
At guard, the Heat play two young offensive-minded players in Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson. Robinson, the former Michigan standout, has evolved into one of the game’s best shooters as his 44.7% clip from deep this season ranks fourth in the league. He’s also making the fourth-most 3-pointers per game and has provided his team with some elite catch-and-shoot play that makes him impossible to take off the floor. Nunn, meanwhile, is averaging 15.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in his rookie season. Nunn’s 36.3% 3-point clip isn’t nearly as special as Robinson’s, but he’s provided versatile offense and solid defense for this team. Rounding out the starting five is now Jae Crowder, who was acquired along with Andre Iguodala at the trade deadline. Meyers Leonard had been the team’s starting power forward for the entirety of the season prior to a February ankle sprain. Erik Spoelstra is reintegrating him into the rotation, and while Jae Crowder (32.3%) can’t provide nearly the level of 3-point shooting as Meyers Leonard (42.9%), Crowder does give the team with a different element as a physical defensive force and gritty rebounder. The Heat could look to integrate Andre Iguodala, their prized trade-deadline acquisition, into the rotation at some point in the playoffs, but he won’t factor into this game as much.
Raptors vs. Heat Betting Odds
Raptors Moneyline: -138
Raptors Spread: -2.5
Heat Moneyline: +118
Heat Spread: +2.5
Vegas is favoring the Raptors after their statement victory over the Lakers, and I think they’re going to keep it rolling against the Heat. The Raps have the second-best defensive rating in the NBA this season, and they’re going to present a ton of matchup problems for Miami. The Heat have gone 2-0 against the Raptors this season, but Toronto wasn’t fully healthy in either game, and they are now the healthiest they’ve been all season.
The Heat defense performed well against the Nuggets, but they were missing their three best 3-point shooters (Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Gary Harris), and Bam Adebayo may not be 100% as he’s still working his way back from COVID-19. I expect this to be a gritty, low-scoring game between two potent defenses, and I trust the Raptors’ top-end talent a bit more. I would bet on the Raptors to cover or on the Raptors moneyline, and I would bet on the under. The Raps’ moneyline should be a great parlay piece today, as well.
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